Calvert, David Anthony (2013) The rat pack and the British pierrot: negotiations of national identity, alienation and belonging in the aesthetics and influences of concerted troupes in popular entertainment. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

The thesis below consists of an introduction followed by three chapters that reflect on the performance work of two distinct forms, the British Pierrot troupe and the Rat Pack. The former is a model of performance adopted and adapted by several hundred companies around the British coastline in the first half of the twentieth century. The latter is an exclusive collaboration between five performers with celebrated individual careers in post-World War Two America. Both are indebted to the rise of blackface minstrelsy, and the subsequent traditions of variety or vaudeville performance. Both are also concerned with matters of national unity, alienation and belonging.

The Introduction will expand on the two forms, and the similarities and differences between them. While these broad similarities lend a thematic framework to the thesis, the distinctions are marked and specific. Accordingly, the chapters are discrete and do not directly inform or refer to each other. Chapter One considers the emergence of the Pierrot troupe from a historical European aesthetic and argues that despite references to earlier Italian and French modes of performance, the innovations of the new form situate the British Pierrot in its contemporary and domestic context. Chapter Two explores this context in more detail, and looks at the Pierrot‟s place in a symbolic network that encompasses royal imagery and identity, the racial implications of blackface minstrelsy and the carnivalesque liminality of the seaside.

Chapter Three is exclusively focussed on the Rat Pack. As such, the approach here changes due to a focus on the public and performed identities of particular individuals, and the wealth of documented performances by this troupe. This allows for more detailed analysis of the personalities and performances involved. The chapter observes the performers‟ unifying backgrounds in vaudeville entertainment, with a particular emphasis on impersonation and emulation. It also considers the aesthetic debt to blackface minstrelsy and the troupe‟s negotiation of American identities with an immigrant heritage.

As the chapters remain discretely focussed on their particular topics, each one contains its own conclusion rather than providing an overarching conclusion at the close of the thesis.

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